National parks can help turn story of loss into one of restoration - Lorna Slater

Views of snow capped mountains from Conic Hill in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park (picture: John Devlin)Views of snow capped mountains from Conic Hill in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park (picture: John Devlin)
Views of snow capped mountains from Conic Hill in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park (picture: John Devlin)
It’s going to be a tough decision to name Scotland’s next National Park. By the time nominations closed last Thursday we had received five fantastic proposals.

With bids from the Scottish Borders, Galloway, Lochaber, Loch Awe and Tay Forest, it’s going to be a difficult choice. All of them are unique and special places and any of them would be worthy of the designation. The Scottish Government will begin to assess each one against the published criteria, with least one of them being named as Scotland’s next National Park by the end of this Parliament in 2026.

National Parks aren’t just about creating places for people to visit, they are living and breathing spaces where people live and work. By investing in them we are investing in the communities in and around them.

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All of the bids have been led by local groups who have put in the groundwork and brought people together to talk about their vision for a National Park in their area.

Once an area is selected, the next stage will involve working with the communities, interest groups and businesses in that area to develop the proposal through extensive engagement and consultation.

Our two current National Parks, the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, have shown how valuable and transformative National Park status can be. Both Parks are celebrated across Scotland and beyond, and are recognised for their iconic landscapes, and their outstanding natural and cultural heritage.

For 20 years they have enhanced their communities and our country and increasingly they serve as a beacon for a greener and more sustainable vision of Scotland. They have provided unforgettable backdrops to days well spent, from afternoons spent walking in the hills to the romance and joy of celebrations and weddings on Loch Lomond’s bonnie banks.

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Having National Park status has been fundamental to their success; boosting their economies, supporting their local businesses and community development and creating high quality green jobs and opportunities for those who live and work in them as well as those who visit. I am confident that our next National Park will do the same.

National Parks are also crucial for our climate. We can’t tackle the climate crisis without tackling the nature emergency that has seen far too much of our land degraded and hundreds of our native species put at risk. Our National Parks have an important role to play in turning that story of loss into one of restoration.

The next few months will be very busy, but I’m looking forward to them and to visiting each site and those who have nominated them. Everyone involved in the bids has put in a huge amount of work and I want to work with them to ensure we are supporting them as we build a greener future.

Lorna Slater, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity